Category:  Health

HIV research at Emory gets boost

image An effort at Emory University to prevent or cure HIV infections by using a drug that's effective in battling a rodent-borne viral infection received a boost.

John Altman, a researcher at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Emory Vaccine Center, received a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to an item in the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Altman is one of 104 researchers and the only one at Emory to receive one of Grand Challenges Explorations grants, which seeks to help lower the barriers for testing innovative ideas in global health.

There's more after the jump.    READ MORE »

Transplant sitrs hopes for AIDS cure

The startling case of an AIDS patient who underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia is stirring new hope that gene-therapy strategies on the far edges of AIDS research might someday cure the disease.

The patient, a 42-year-old American living in Berlin, is still recovering from his leukemia therapy, but he appears to have won his battle with AIDS. Doctors have not been able to detect the virus in his blood for more than 600 days, despite his having ceased all conventional AIDS medication. Normally when a patient stops taking AIDS drugs, the virus stampedes through the body within weeks, or days.

"I was very surprised," said the doctor, Gero Hütter.    READ MORE »

AIDS treatment should start sooner

People who have the AIDS virus should start drug treatments sooner than current guidelines recommend, suggests a large new study that could change the care of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

The study found that delaying treatment until a patient's immune system is badly damaged nearly doubles the risk of dying in the next few years compared to patients whose treatment started earlier.

Doctors have thought it would be better to spare patients the side effects of AIDS drugs as long as possible.    READ MORE »

Aussie scientists discover trans gene

Australian researchers have identified a significant link between a gene involved in testosterone action and male-to-female transsexualism.

DNA analysis from 112 male-to-female transsexual volunteers showed they were more likely to have a longer version of the androgen receptor gene.

The genetic difference may cause weaker testosterone signals, the team reported in Biological Psychiatry.    READ MORE »

Scientists: Prospects bleak for vaccine

The global economic turmoil is likely to take its toll on AIDS research funding and add to the problems plaguing the search for a vaccine against the virus, scientists warned Tuesday.

Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it was impossible to predict whether scientists would ever be able to develop an effective vaccine, as they have for other killers such as smallpox and measles.

“Will there be a guarantee that we will get a vaccine in the classical sense? Realistically you can’t say that,” Fauci said. “But that doesn’t mean we are going to give up trying.”    READ MORE »

Scientists receive Nobel for HIV discovery

Two French scientists who discovered the AIDS virus and a German who found the virus that causes cervical cancer were awarded the 2008 Nobel prize for medicine or physiology on Monday.

Luc Montagnier, director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi of the Institut Pasteur won half the prize of 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.4 million) for discovering the deadly virus that has killed millions of people since it was identified in the 1980s.    READ MORE »

Study traces AIDS origin to 100 years ago

The AIDS virus has been circulating among people for about 100 years, decades longer than scientists had thought, a new study suggests. Genetic analysis pushes the estimated origin of HIV back to between 1884 and 1924, with a more focused estimate at 1908.

Previously, scientists had estimated the origin at around 1930. AIDS wasn't recognized formally until 1981 when it got the attention of public health officials in the United States.    READ MORE »

Bush admin slow on ending HIV travel ban

Experts at an early August international AIDS conference in Mexico City were full of praise for the United States for having reversed a 15-year-old law banning HIV-positive people from entering the country.

But nearly two months after President Bush signed that act into law, his administration has yet to take the steps needed to put the new law into practice, and lawmakers and advocacy groups are wondering what is going on.    READ MORE »

CDC says its needs more for HIV prevention

An optimal HIV prevention program for the United States would require an additional $877 million in fiscal year 2009 and an additional $4.8 billion over five years, more than doubling what is currently being spent.    READ MORE »

Analysis confirms AIDS hits men hard

AIDS remains largely a disease of gay and bisexual men in the United States but also disproportionately infects black women, according to an analysis published on Thursday.

Last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 56,000 people in the United States become newly infected with the human immunodeficiency virus each year, far more than previous estimates of about 40,000.

Now the CDC has further analyzed those numbers to find the fatal and incurable virus largely infects men who have sex with men, or MSM -- a group that includes gays, bisexuals and men who may have the occasional sexual encounter with other men.

"The male-to-male sexual contact transmission category represented 72 percent of new infections among males, including 81 percent of new infections among whites, 63 percent among blacks, and 72 percent among Hispanics," the report said.

Of the new infections in 2006, more than half were among gay and bisexual men, the CDC found. Of these, 46 percent of new infections were among whites, 35 percent among blacks and 19 percent in Hispanics.

But among the overall U.S. population, more blacks are affected -- 46 percent of new infections were among blacks.

Read the full story from Reuters.    READ MORE »

Unsafe sex ‘big threat’ for gay men in China

The incidence of HIV/AIDS among Beijing's drug users is in decline but the city's gay community remains the most at-risk group, a local health official said on Friday.

He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing center for disease control and prevention (CDC), said that based on figures for the first seven months, 1.5 percent of the city's drug users are HIV positive, compared with 5 percent in 2001.

In comparison, 5 percent of gay men in the capital are HIV positive, while 0.5 percent of unlicensed prostitutes are infected with the virus, He said, without giving figures for 2001.

"More than 43 percent of all newly reported cases are attributed to people having unprotected sex, and gay men are the most at risk," he said.

Research carried out over the past three years has shown that less than 50 percent of gay men use condoms, so promoting better health awareness among them is a major task, he said.
During the first seven months of the year, 563 new HIV cases were reported in Beijing, 118 of which involved local people and the rest migrant workers, He said.

Read the full story from China Daily.    READ MORE »

Feds cut HIV tracking effort in Ga.

Georgia has been dropped from a federal program to spot trends in HIV infections.

The state had been participating in the program for the past three years, but the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped Georgia’s funding this year, CDC officials confirmed Thursday.

The first set of results from the new HIV incidence surveillance program were announced to much fanfare earlier this month. Officials asserted that the annual HIV infection rate in the country was 40 percent higher than previously estimated.

Georgia had received more than $1 million in CDC funding to participate in the advanced testing and analysis, which helps spot emerging trends in the epidemic.

But the CDC, for reasons officials did not fully explain, cut Georgia from its latest round of funding, which began in January and runs for five years.

Georgia still will track and report HIV and AIDS cases, state officials stressed, but it will not have the advantage of the new technology and methods. The funding cut does not impact any other state HIV/AIDS testing or services.

“It’s a setback,” said Dr. Carlos del Rio, co-director for the Emory Center for AIDS Research.

For the full story from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, go here.    READ MORE »

HIV expert compares blood ban to racism

The director of Gay and Lesbian Health Victoria has likened the Australian Red Cross ban on gay blood donations to racist discrimination.

Associate Professor Anne Mitchell gave evidence today at the Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Tribunal taken by gay would-be donor Michael Cain.

Mr. Cain seeks to have the Australian Red Cross' ban on gay men donating blood lifted.

Electronics technician Michael Cain, 21, of West Launceston, was rejected as a donor in October 2004, after replying "yes" in the Red Cross questionnaire to whether he had had gay sex in the past 12 months.

Speaking at the tribunal today, Professor Mitchell stated that high-risk sexual activity was not as widespread as some studies claim.

She said: 'The most compelling evidence of all for the effectiveness of safe sex is the simple fact that…when safe sex was taken on by men who have sex with men the escalation in infection rate was pegged back.

"This made it immediately clear that the risk of HIV infection was not associated with male to male sex per se, rather it was associated with unsafe male to male sex."

For the full story from Pink News, go here.    READ MORE »

Gift cards new weapon against HIV

Could the AIDS virus be stopped with gift cards? Desperate for a way to stop the escalating spread of HIV among young gay men, public health officials are looking to novel strategies, such as enlisting local gay opinion leaders to urge their peers to practice safe sex.

Promising signs from such a project in North Carolina led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to begin rolling it out on a broader scale, to more than 200 community groups. The budget is $1.5 million over a two-year period.

The idea is to give gift coupons to popular, influential men in the gay community and encourage them to talk up condom use, regular HIV testing and other responsible actions.

It may sound frivolous, but little else has proven effective for the men most affected by the epidemic.

For the full story from the Associated Press, go here.    READ MORE »

Red Cross calls Atlanta blood shortage ‘urgent’

The American Red Cross and Emory Healthcare are set to discuss the Atlanta region's blood shortage, which the agencies call "urgent," during a press conference this morning.

The American Red Cross Southern Blood Services Region has been on public appeal for blood for nearly six weeks. Despite considerable efforts over the past several weeks, the Red Cross has not seen an increase in collections or inventory levels. It is critical that eligible donors be made aware of the situation and encouraged to give blood as soon as possible.

The plea comes as the American Red Cross and U.S. Food & Drug Administration continue a ban on gay men donating their blood. So if the region's sizable gay male population wanted to help, they couldn't.

The debate over gay men donating blood has recently reached a fever pitch in Australia.    READ MORE »